I Spent My Birthday in Corregidor!

Last year was a disaster. I spent my birthday with my GF. We went to Tagaytay where we hoped to enjoy its windy atmosphere via commuting. We went to the place unprepared and we found out that we need to map out our trips so we won’t haggle for transportation, we won’t get swindled by the locals, and we will have the ultimate satisfaction of enjoying everything.

For three months, we looked for the place where we can both enjoy. However, the trip mustn’t be an overnight one. We discussed resorts and other tours from nearby towns but we settled on Corregidor. Corregidor is an island-worth of World War 2 history. Back in the day, the tadpole-shaped island needs to be defended at all times because of its proximity to Manila, the center of commerce and the de facto capital of the Philippines. Stories of heroism and valor can be heard across the island. Douglas Macarthur loved the place so much that it pains him to see it captured by the Japanese Government. We wanted to see the place we saw only in books and documentaries.

It sickens to find out that this is our country and yet we don’t know shit about the lives that were spent in creating our nation.

Near the Harbour Center dock near the CCP area resides an office which serves as the meeting point for all the “tourists”. The waiting area is a melting pot of races. A day tour to Corregidor costs around almost Php2000 while an overnight stay costs around Php2800. The Malinta Tunnel light and sound show is Php150 pesos. An air-conditioned jeepney will fetch the tourists en route to a dock near the Jumbo Palace were you are about to board a yacht. The prices of the drinks, booze, and snacks are pricy. Fear humiliation if you’re the type that feels uneasy during boat rides. While the yacht seems safe, buoyancy will play an important role in dealing with those furious waves. After a near 90 minutes of travel, we safely reached Corregidor. We grabbed our bags and rode those tourist transport vehicles.

Tour guides are very important to enjoy this historical experience. Without them, you’ll just be a guy going around a couple of wrecked buildings and other stuffs. We rode with an English-speaking group which pretty much consists of Americans with their Pinay girlfriends, backpackers, a typical Pinoy family who loves the have fun, and us, a couple looking for a good time. It really helped that our tour guide was a 74-year old mestizo that personally experienced the Japanese Occupation. He was funny but delivers his facts with conviction. He gave us a bunch of trivia that I will never see in textbooks. As we go through the island he blasted the Marcos administration for not carrying about Corregidor and further stated that Marcos was only concerned on looking for the Yamashita treasure. It was during the administration of Cory Aquino that the Corregidor Island evolved into a tourist hotspot.

I love history. I now root for the Boston Celtics (the Lakers, the Knicks, and the Bulls round out my Best 4 squads) because of how they upgraded their lineup following the deaths of the legendary Red Auerbach and Dennis Johnson. I will forever remember the moment when Kevin Garnett hugged Bill Russell after capturing their first championship since the Larry Bird era. This is why this Corregidor trip made me giddy. I saw the Battery Way and the Pacific War Monument. I saw Macarthur’s office before it was bombed to oblivion. The only remnants of that office were a couple of cement blocks. These same cement blocks were exported by the Americans to the Japanese before the war and the inside information they got from talking to the contractors got them the information as to where Macarthur’s office was located.

As we scour the view, I imagine how the Filipino and American soldiers cram Malinta Tunnel to either try to fight or wait for their deaths. I imagine the nurses Jonathan Wainwright playfully called “Angels” sacrificing their selves to be gutted by the Japs just to save the wounded soldiers from getting their ire. I imagine how every May 6, a blinding light beams directly to the shrine of the soldiers. I saw a former WW2 preschool and Gen. Macarthur’s golf course. I saw how the Japanese tunnels were different from the American tunnels. The American tunnels were cemented since they occupied the island longer than the 3-year tenure of the Japs.

I saw a hole in front of the stairs of a Corregidor building that may look like nothing, but it was where Macarthur hid when Japanese soldiers randomly bombed the buildings.

A bomb was lucky enough to enter that hole but Macarthur was saved by the deputies surrounding him.

These deputies died on the spot.

Across the tadpole-shaped island are a bunch of stories filled with heroism and valor. A lot of lives were wasted partly because Franklin Delano Roosevelt ditched sending troops to the Pacific to battle Adolf Hitler in Europe. This was Manuel Quezon’s beef, as reenacted during the Light and Sound Show inside the Malinta Tunnel. I must say, while the tour continues to entertain the tourists, they seriously need to refresh it. Those golden mini-monuments detailing the events aren’t really that moving. I think the audio quality has suffered from wear and tear and the dialogues aren’t even appealing. Of course, this is just me.

If I’m not mistaken, I am hearing a lot of Joonee Gamboa in the audio parts.

What amazed me further were the tourists. I saw a couple of young backpackers and old businessmen. But I also saw a couple of young and old Japenese tourists that every time they hear about the events that transpired in Corregidor, they apologize to everyone. There were Japanese cadets in the cruise and while most of the tourists enjoyed the complete tour package, they resisted going to the Malinta Tunnel and they stayed for a long time on the small strip of land ceded by the Philippines to Japan which pretty much commemorate the valor and heroism of the Japanese soldiers during WW2 (when the war ended, so did the hatred).

The day tour lasted six hours and while the tour won’t be awe-striking for a second time, it did what it had to do in making people admire the beauty and history of Corregidor.

Here are some of the pics that were taken.

Game over.


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